What do you think about Hell

This is from Charles Colson’s  book:   A Dangerous Grace p. 51

During a visit to England, I gave an  address at a meeting attended by the eminent historian Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times.  At the end of my talk, Johnson looked at me with his ruddy Irish face, and said, “I think the biggest problem facing the modern age is what  to do about the doctoring of hell.  What do you think?

I was taken aback; the question had nothing to do with my talk.  But as Johnson explained. I realized how right he was.  When the Church does not clearly teach the doctrine of hell, society losses an important anchor.  In a sense, hell gives meaning to our lives.  It tells us that the moral choices we make day by day have eternal significance; that our behavior has consequences lasting to eternity, that God Himself takes our choices seriously.

When people don’t believe in a final judgment, they don’t feel ultimately accountable for their actions. There is no firm leash holding back sinful impulses.  As the book of Judges puts it, there is “no fear God” in their hearts, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

The doctrine of hell is not just some dusty theological holdover from the Middle Ages.  It has significant social consequences.  Without a conviction ultimate justice, people’s  sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bods are broken.;  People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man, no respect human laws and authorities.

Published in: on January 25, 2016 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Battle of the Bulge Warrior

The other day I saw Jim Pendleton and his lovely bride of three years Jo Ann, who were visiting an assisted living center.  Jim has been honored locally and also by the state of Indiana for his service in the Army during the Battle of the Bulge, where he was severely wounded. I told him I had been thinking of him lately since the 70th anniversary  of that epic battle was coming up in December. I asked him if he could remember what he was doing in October of that year. He immediately replied, “Yeah, that was when I shot an American.” I thought, this was going to be good so the three of us sat down and Jim began telling me his unexpected story.

“We were in Eastern France and the Germans had just dropped paratroopers into our sector. It was dark  and I was in the woods trying to keep as quiet as possible, for we knew the enemy was all around us. I heard a noise up the road in front of us, so I got behind a large sycamore tree for cover. Several men were coming at me down the road.  From the clicking noise they were making I figured they were German because we knew they wore hob nailed boots. Soon I  could faintly see three soldiers approaching. I decided to shoot the one in the middle, figuring that it might be an officer.  I aimed for his head, pulled the trigger. My targets helmet went flying and the soldier tumbled into the ditch along the road. and down he went, falling into the ditch along the road, The  other two disappeared. I listened and could hear him moaning. Soon I heard him repeating over and over again, “You shot my brains out,” in English. Thinking this to be a German trick, I stayed behind my cover wondering where the other two soldiers had gone. After listening to more moaning and brains being shot out, I hollered over my victim, “your brains aren’t gone or you wouldn’t be able to talk. Hearing my English he shouted back for me to come over to help him. Still fearful of the Germans I told him that I wasn’t coming until it got light. He told me that he was an American and that he was captured by the German and they were taking him someplace. When it was light and with no Germans in sight I crawled over to him and could see the crease in the top of skull that my bullet had made after it went through his helmet.

While Jim didn’t say it, his shot may have saved the American life. At best he would have gone to a P.O.W. camp at worst  they may have executed him.

I’ll try to tell more of Jim stories later.

Published in: on October 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Broad Road web site.

015http://www.TheBroadRoad.org

Published in: on October 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

NEW BOOK IS OUT! THE BROAD ROAD go to http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-001027425/The-Broad-Road.aspx

Published in: on September 29, 2015 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Five Lessons America Learned from the Pilgrims

Three hundred and ninety years ago the travelers we call the Pilgrims were still sitting in a small ship that had brought them across a wide ocean.  While parties were being sent out to find a good settling spot, they had to be wondering why they had made such a precarious journey and if their suffering was worth it and would it ever end.

Because of religious persecution they had left England and went to Holland where they could worship freely. When they began to lose their national identity, they embarked on one of riskiest moves known to man, a move to a total wilderness.  The journey would include going into the hold of a ship, smaller than most of our basements, and rarely leave it for over two months. (Think of all the things you have done for the last two months). They would share the space with over one hundred people – no bathrooms, rare light and no fire for warmth for fear of setting the old vessel on fire. The food was barely edible, people were constantly dying, and did I mention that there were no bathrooms? And yet they didn’t lose sight of their goal, to live in a place that they could worship God their way.  Which lead us to Lesson #1: Americans don’t want their Government to be involved in how they worship God.

When they realized that they were north of the area that their land charter had them going they debated about whose law would they be under, England’s or nobody’s?  After much debate, they decided to come up with their own governmental plan, even if it was temporary. The basics were: that they would elect their own leaders and everyone would follow their decisions.  We call it the Mayflower Compact. Sorry ladies it has nothing to do with makeup. Lesson #2:  Americans want to elect their own leaders. We charge them to make the rules and we agree to follow them.

From William Bradford’s diary we know that this dedicated group constantly was asking God for direction and protection.  It’s hard see how God protected them since eventually half of them died, but they felt that God had paved the way for them. Could it have been just by chance that five years before they arrived a warrior name Squanto was captured by Europeans to be sold in Spain as a slave and four years later he is released back to his homeland?  Was is just coincidence that he learned to speak English very well and was willing to use his abilities and knowledge to help the race that had stolen him away?  Was it a coincidence that the off course Mayflower had taken them to a land, where just the past year a French crew had been murdered, and now was almost devoid of native population because of disease?  I guess all those things could have been an accident but we know the Pilgrims called it Divine Providence. Lesson #3 Americans have always believed that God had a hand in the very beginnings of our great country.

Through all the great hardships of the journey and early months of backbreaking work and the mourning of the loss of their loved ones, the settlers never lost sight of who they were.  In the early fall they set a time to give thanks to God for their survival. They were even willing to share their meager provisions with their new native friends.  Lesson #4   Americans believe that even through great hardship we have much to be thankful for and we should share our bounty with each other.

There is no record that the Thanksgiving ceremony continued each year, and it would be hard to do it the next couple of years.  For the first three years everyone worked for the common good, all food and animals were held together.  But as has been shown through history, that system rarely works.  The slouches always exist and they bring down the effort of the group and the incentive to work hard disappears. The group was on the brink of disaster when the elected leader, William Bradford, declared that from that moment on everyone would reap the benefits of their own efforts, and the community began to prosper. Lesson #5 For America to continue to prosper, we all need to work hard, and the freeloaders will have to work if they want to survive.

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 1:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 27

THE NEXT DAY

The Sabbath meal continuing the Passover went on as usual that Friday evening all over Palestine and Jewish communities scattered throughout the Middle East.  Only those in Jerusalem and within a few miles from it knew what had happened at Golgotha that day.

Those who had been at the cross were still trying to comprehend what they had seen. Most were too stunned to even to even try to understand.  To add to the confusion, some families in the city were joyously welcoming back members who they had recently put in the grave. Who could make any sense of any of this?

Jesus’ followers were too upset to be thanking God for intervening in their nations past history. They huddled in various houses throughout the city. Most so emotionally drained they didn’t have the faculties to begin to put a string of words or thoughts together.  The lamps were blown out early that night.  Some went to the rooftops to sleep, even though it was cool, they just needed to be alone.  As they lay there gazing at the stars, they wanted to ask the whole heavenly body and its creator, “Why had God forsaken us?”

The sun came up the next morning as usual.  This time there was no interruption as it traveled its course.  Since it was the Sabbath, no one could travel very far.  Some would go to the Temple, or the local synagogue, most of Jesus closest followers didn’t.  Since it was one of the most holy Sabbaths of the year a large crowd who made it through the Gate Beautiful were stunned to gaze into the Holy of Holies. A sight usually reserved only for the priest who was on duty. The officials wanted to repair the curtain during the night, but the Pharisaical opinion was it would be work, therefore banned until sundown of the Sabbath.

The disciples gravitated back to the house where they had had their last meal with Jesus.  All of them had the look of whipped pups. Peter, less that forty-eight hours ago had bragged that he would never let down the Lord, was inconsolable. In tears he had confessed to his compatriots of his betrayal of Jesus.  They tried to make him feel better, knowing that they had too had scattered in fear after the Lord’s arrest.

The group was smaller. They had heard conflicting reports  that Judas had committed suicide by jumping off a cliff, some said he hung himself.  The group was incredulous that one of their own had sold out their Lord out for money.  They began picking the now dead Judas apart.  He was always too worried about money, said many. Yes he did function as their treasurer, but held on to those monies like they were his own.  Many people had been generous contributing funds to help the group buy food and other necessities. A lot of it was given to the poor under the direction of Jesus.  Several of the disciples had families at home that needed to be taken care of.  Judas was always reluctant to parcel out the funds.  Several times Jesus had rebuked him for his stinginess. Judas was also always encouraging Jesus to more aggressive in pursuing his Messianic mission. Maybe he was holding on to it to buy weapons, thought several of them.

As a group they were glad that he was dead; now they didn’t have to deal with the evil thoughts about what they would do to him if given the chance.

The disciple’s opinion of the Temple leaders and the Pharisees, which hadn’t been high, now was encased with bitterness.  Those groups were the instigators of this whole tragedy.  How could these so-called men of God, be so vile to kill the kindest man anyone had ever known?  Some were even thinking of ways to take out revenge on these pariahs. Jesus’ teaching of forgiving seventy times seven became a harder concept than they had originally thought.

The biggest question that was on the minds of everyone in the room was, “What was going to happen next?”   Would the authorities be coming after them?  In the fearful state that they were in, it only made sense to them that killers of Jesus would try to wipe out the their whole bunch. Were their spies looking for them right now? Even if they weren’t being pursued, they all agreed it would be best to leave Jerusalem as soon as possible. Several decided to leave the city early the next morning.  Since many were from the Galilee region they made plans to break up into small groups.  They could probably immerse themselves in the throngs of pilgrims as they left the city after celebrating the Passover.

They spent the long day talking in hushed tones, telling stories of their departed love one.  All had their special moment that they recalled about their Lord.  For the first time, they heard from Peter and John about what happened on top of the mountain.  As the stories were told, the teller would break down and weep at the realization that he was truly gone.  Someone noted that the Master had recently warned them many times that he was going to Jerusalem and there he would be killed.  No one brought up that he also taught that in three days he would rise up. On this day their minds were too seared by despair for the chance of any hope to enter in.

What about their future?  Could they go back to their previous professions of fisherman and tax collectors, and other occupations after being with Christ these last three years?  After witnessing so many improbable events, could they settle down to a commonplace life? They couldn’t see how that would be possible.

At the insistence of Mary and Martha, Jesus’ family and some of the faithful women traveled the short distance back to Lazarus home in Bethany. Lazarus and his sisters did their best to console the grieving. Only a little over a week ago they had been going through the same anguish. The sisters took turns holding Mary in their arms, not saying much, knowing it wasn’t time for words.

Since no one was home to prepare a Sabbath meal doing the day there wasn’t the usual big meal to partake of.  No one was in the mood for it anyway.   They did nibble at some of the pieces of food that was left over from yesterdays Seder, since most hadn’t eaten all day. As the evening progressed, they laid down in secluded spots hoping that sleep would come early. For most, it didn’t.

.         Lazarus didn’t even attempt to sleep that night.  His mind was racing through all the events that had happened, including his own resurrection.  If Jesus could bring him back from the dead, why couldn’t he bring himself back?  Lazarus now believed that anything was possible.  Could it happen, he asked himself.  Or was he just grasping at straws.

After a night of fitful sleep, if any, the group at Lazarus’ house stumbled around the next morning, mostly trying to avoiding talking to each other. By afternoon the realization settled in that Jesus wasn’t going to walk in the door, like he had done so many times before. Conversations turned to practical matters.

Most of this group had watched the Lords body being taken down for the cross.  Mary had given her blessings to Joseph to have it taken the tomb he had purchased.  A small procession had followed the body to the tomb.  Because the Sabbath was about to begin and they had some distance to go before sundown, they didn’t know what preparation had been make to the body.

Now the faithful women were making plans to make sure the body had been prepared in the correct way. They didn’t know how much time Nicodemus and Joseph had to prepare the corpse and they wanted to make sure it had been done right. Even before first light, several of them would go to the tomb with water to properly wash it, add the spices, and then rewrap it.

Back in Jerusalem, the Pharisee and Temple leaders were feeling pretty good about what they had accomplished.  Now they wouldn’t have to hear anything more about the great wonders that this Jesus was doing.  They would not longer be embarrassed by they way he had made them look so small, and the many times he had been out right disrespectful. And even more important they wouldn’t have to worry that the Romans were going to have a crack down on them because of this out of control mystic.

Even though they wouldn’t express it out loud, several of them still had doubts about what they had done.  And what about those unexplained events like the three hours of darkness.  Had they ever felt anything as evil as that?  Was it just a coincidence that an earthquake would hit just as Jesus died?  What about these reports that some of the dead had come out of the grave?  It was all very troubling.

Still some of them were concerned that this was still not over.  They had been close listeners to what Jesus said when he was teaching.  They recalled that that he had been predicting his own death and that in three days he would come back again. Now none of them believed that he was going to be coming back, but they were worried that his followers but try to make it look so.

A delegation was sent to Pilate to express their fears that the body would be stolen, and the best way to stop that from happening was to post a guard at the tomb. Pilate was tired of this group and their conspiracies but went along with them one more time just to get them off his back.  As they left, he just shook his head in disgust, first he had been convinced to have this innocent man killed and now he was having the body guarded, what a crazy bunch of people these Jews were!  He couldn’t wait to get out of this town.

Matthew 27: 62    Luke 23:56

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 26

Darkness

The sky above Crucifixion Hill began to get dark. For those paying attention, this seemed somewhat strange. At the sixth hour, the sun should be at its brightest. If a spring storm was coming in they should have been able to notice it coming in.  This was different. The whole sky was getting progressively darker by the second.  The crowd’s attention was diverted from the heartrending scene of Jesus on the cross, to what was happening above them.

From the various groups could be heard the same observations and questions.  “Must be a storm coming. I’ve never seen the sky look like that before. Why are all the birds flying around like that, Father?” And it just got darker and darker.

The sphere of the sun had completely disappeared, but no distinguishing signs of clouds that would hide it could be seen.

Parents and the few children that were present clung tightly to each other.  The adults began to braced themselves for what experience had taught them would surely be a strong gust of cold wind. The air not only lost its light but it became heavy.  Soon there was total blackness, a blackness that was so deep that nothing could be seen through it.  Its weight was enough to press people to their knees. It was full of evil. Some gasped for more of the air that couldn’t satisfy their lungs. Instead of the expected coolness it became progressively warmer.

People tried to cry out from their unseen fear but their inward groaning stayed inside, for nothing could come out of their mouths. No noise could be heard anywhere. In their fright the people waited for their eyes to adjust to the darkness but all they saw was black.  Some tried to escape by walking away, but their legs wouldn’t work.  The only thing they were left with was the evil of the past that was deep in the hell of their innermost beings.

The minds of the people alternated from short moments of lucidity to memories of the worse evil that they had thought or had ever done.  Sin was in the air so thick that if people could move their arms they could have reached out and grabbed it with their hands. Some visualized atrocities from the ages past that they couldn’t comprehend.

Some old men were besieged with memories of things they had done to their long departed parents.  The memories of unconfessed infidelity exploded in the minds of both men and women.  The religious teachers were brought to their knees by all the secret transgressions that they were sure that they had gotten away with and had been long forgotten.

Rich men were tormented with the transactions that they had conducted that had taken advantage of their fellow man.  Children struggled with the lies that they had told their parents.  Those who were crippled had heads full of the wickedness that they had wished on the ones who weren’t sympathetic to their infirmities.

Soldiers saw the haunting faces of those that they had given no mercy in battle.  Several of the disciples were plagued by their blind ambitions in what they thought was going to be the kingdom to come. Priests felt the weight of privileges they had given the rich and their ambivalence toward the poor.

In the few moments when he wasn’t being tormented by his role in the torturing of Jesus, the captain of the guard was worried that Jesus’ followers would try to rescue him in this darkness. He wanted to give orders to find some torches and take up a defensive position but he couldn’t make his mouth move to give the orders. And then his mind would go back to being consumed by his past evils.

The tax collectors had visions of the people they had crushed by the heavy taxes they had collected from the powerless.  The two men hanging next to Jesus felt the weight of their good families that they had disgraced. The women who had surrounded Jesus’ ministry fought with the demons of jealously that they had as they had tried to be Jesus’ favorite.  The ones who had been physically healed were plagued with the guilt of not having compassion for the ones who were still ailing.

The evil that was present for those three hours came because all the sins of the world, past and future, were coming to rest on the shoulders of the broken body of Christ.

This had been the plan from the beginning of time.  God knew when he gave free choice to his creation that mankind would chose evil.  The choosing of evil always has penalties; individual humans would pay for the sin in their lives in many different ways. This sin was going to create a barrier between man and the perfect Creator. Like opposite poles of a magnet when they come next to each other, they push apart, sin and perfect God can’t co-exist.  For a time, God was going to allow man to approach him through a contrite heart, and the substitute sacrifice of an animal.  But this was just to pave the way for the coming perfect sacrifice, part of God himself, Jesus.

And so for those three hours Satan and his subordinates with great joy heaped all the sins of mankind, past and future on the broken body of Jesus.  When he died, a great shout of elation came from the depths of Hell.  Evil had won!  The long campaign of Satan for the rule of man had ended.  Victory could be proclaimed.

And then there was Light!

The sudden appearance of the sun caused everyone to cry out with pain and instinctively cover their eyes.

While the crowd was recovering their senses, they heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God why have you abandoned me?”  There was confusion in what he said.  Some thought he was crying out to Elijah for help.  Furis the Captain of the Roman guard thought he was thirsty. He took a sponge soaked in cheap wine, put in on a stick and offered it up to him.

With everyone paying attention, Jesus once again cried out, “It is finished,” and with that he breathed no more. The women began to wail and flailed with their arms. Men openly wept.

Nature itself began to convulse.  The earth shook with such violence that most of the assembled were thrown to the ground.  The rocks that Zacchaeus had claimed for a perch split into pieces. Men, woman and children cried out, screaming to God for mercy. Many wondered if the world was coming to an end.  After what their bodies had been through in the last three hours, many laid on the ground praying the demise of the earth would come quickly. The soldiers glanced up at the crosses to see if they remained upright.

Furius the Roman soldier who had taken such a delight in the torture of Jesus, picked himself off the ground and exclaimed, “This had to be the Son of God!”  Others who had gambled for his clothes mused, what have we done?  This question was echoed by more than a few of the orchestraters of the whole affair.

As time moved on, small groups silently drifted from the scene.  His closest followers could not bring themselves to abandon him.

A man came up the hill to report that strange things were happening in the city. During the earthquake, the few that were in the temple saw that the large cloth curtain that separated the inner court from the sacred Holy of Holies had been torn from top to bottom. A gasp went up from the people as they glance into this forbidden space and then quickly looked away.  Even more shocking was during the earthquake; people who had died recently had come walking out of their now open tombs.

As evening approached for the start of the most holy observance, the Passover, the Jewish leaders were concerned that the bodies of the crucified were going to desecrate their observance. They implored Pilate to put a quick end to their lives, so the bodies could be taken down. Unwilling to aggravate these agitators, he reluctantly gave into their demands. What good was a crucifixion if the criminals didn’t suffer for days, he thought?

The soldiers were only too happy to carry out the orders. Now they weren’t going to be stuck out there on the barren hillside for days.  In one last act of Roman cruelty, instead of ending the lives of the poor souls quickly with a thrust of the their swords, they hit them with a broadside just above the ankles, breaking the legs. Now they would soon suffocate because their useless legs could no longer push off on the block to gasp for air.

When they came to Jesus it was apparent that he was already dead. His skin had turned gray and stiffness had set in. Just to make sure, one of the soldiers thrust his spear up into his side.  He never flinched; a small amount of water and blood came out of the wound.

Not wanting Jesus’ body to be thrown in a common grave, Joseph had already asked Pilate to take the body to the tomb he had quickly arranged to purchase. Under the pressure of the upcoming sundown, his body was quickly taken down and hurried to the sepulcher. He and Nicodemus did the best they could preparing the body for a proper burial.

Most people went on their way, not comprehending what they had just witnessed. They didn’t realize it, but they had seen the only perfect being to ever walk on the face of the earth. not only die for their own past and future sins, but for all of humanity’s.  But for many they couldn’t get past that many of their own dreams had been smashed that day.

Some left fearful for their own lives. Would they be next? they asked themselves.  Many questioned everything they believed.  If they were so mistaken that Jesus was divine and therefore all-powerful, then everything else they had put their trust in could be wrong.

So they went to their homes to begin the Passover feast, a celebration in which the all-powerful God had directly intervened in the lives of the people he loved.  Some questioned whether God cared anymore, or was he incapable to do anything.

With the fading light the most dreadful six hours in the history of the world came to a close.  The Son of Man, the Light of the World, was extinguished, OR SO IT SEEMED!

Matt. 27   Mark 16   Luke 23    John 19

  1. Do you think your individual sins were heaped on Christ shoulders during the darkness?
  2. What is the significance of the veil being torn?
  3. Have you ever been to the point where you questioned everything you ever believed in?
Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 25

The Four Stepbrothers

The four brothers had always been close.  Ever since they could remember they had done everything together.  Even this latest trip to Jerusalem had been a group effort.  And now the great weight that they collectively felt as they watched their oldest brother being crucified was crushing them almost into the ground.  Watching their mother and aunt in such agony; was almost more than they could bear.  They were all thinking that they were glad that their father wasn’t alive to see this.

Each one of them was contemplating what they should have done to stop this situation. James was thinking that if he had just had prayed harder then maybe the Great Jehovah would have intervened.  They all knew the Pharisees had been plotting to kill his brother; Joseph’s belief was that he should have stopped Jesus from coming here in the first place.  Simon hated to admit it, especially now, that he resented his brother for putting the family in this horrible position.  And Judas, the youngest, was playing in his mind how if he had been there in the garden when the arrest had been made, he and his brothers could have fought off the mob.

The brothers had forever been confused how they felt about their big brother.  He had always been different. They just thought maybe it was because he was the oldest. Not that they could complain about anything he did.  None of them could ever remember being beaten up by him and couldn’t even remember a cross word towards them coming from his mouth. He even treated his little sisters Assia and Lydra nice, which was more than the rest of them could say.

After their dad Joseph, died a few years ago; Jesus had spent a lot of extra time with each one of them helping to improve their carpentry skills.  It was as if he knew that he was going to abandon the business someday and he wanted to make sure they had the ability to be successful.  But there was no doubt that he was the best craftsman in the family; dad must have taught him well because every thing he did, he did to perfection.  He had more patience than the rest of them combined.  When they thought a project finished he would sand and sand some more making the finished wood as soft as a babies behind.

Jesus becoming a teacher of the Law, was no surprise to his family and friends.  He had long been putting the local synagogue leaders to shame with his knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.  Those same leaders had many times tried to get him to study the Law seriously so he could have the educational background to move into a leadership position.  But Jesus would just brush them off with some remark about being about, “his fathers business”.  They all thought that he was talking about carpentry.

And the brothers weren’t all that shocked when he told them he was moving to Capernaum to begin his teaching.  After what had happened in Nazareth, who could blame him?  Mom began to regularly baking bread and cakes for him and sending one of us to take it to his new location and his increasing band of followers.

Our first real indication that big brother was something

special occurred at the wedding of one of our close relatives in Cana.  We all went and it was quite an affair, with a larger than expected crowd.  Mom noticed that they were about to run out of wine, which was going to put a damper on the festivities. It was also going to be a huge embarrassment to our relatives.  When she pointed it out to Jesus, he was a little abrupt in asking her what did she want him to do about it, which was out of character for him.

But then he had the host servants take several of the water jars and told them to fill them from the well.  He then had them taken to our host for tasting.  The servants were astonished that the water that they had drawn had been turned into the best of wine. And the host was real confused when he found this good wine in the water jars. When mom told us what had happened, we found it difficult to believe, since we hadn’t seen it ourselves. One of them suggested that maybe mom had tasted a little too much of the new wine.

On the next Sabbath, since Jesus was in town visiting us, we all went to our synagogue in Nazareth. He was given the honor of reading from the scroll.  He chose to read from Isaiah where it said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and the recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” He then sat down and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  While those present debated what he meant by that, hee told them that prophets like Elijah are always rejected in their own towns..

This set the large crowd into confusion.   Someone angrily shouted, “How dare you compare yourself to Elijah and us to the people who had rejected him.” And before we could do anything about it, a mob of angry righteous ones, drove our brother out of the building and out towards a cliff, with intentions of throwing him off.  We did our best to hold them back but to no avail. Just before being pushed off the edge, he put up his arms and then walked through the crowd, with no one putting a hand on him. It was like he had some kind of invisible shield around him.

After that he left the town and rarely came back. From then on our family was given a cool reception from the synagogue leaders.  And from then on we had people stopping by our houses and shop to give us reports on what was the latest news about our brother.  The accounts of miraculous events, like numerous healings, became more plentiful and more astounding.

While working at the shop, the brothers spent a good deal of time discussing their brother Jesus as they shaped their wood. How was he able to do all of these miracles if he wasn’t a prophet? But how could he be a prophet, didn’t he come from their home?  Some of their neighbors accused him of being demon possessed, but how can a demon possessed man caste out demons? They were sure, except for maybe Simon, that he wasn’t demon possessed. These and other unanswerable questions kept swirling around them.

Early in his ministry they had gone as a group to question him on what he was doing, and had received a cool reception.  More and more his teachings gave inference to him being the “Son of God.” Now for us brothers, that was too much!  Once we had even told him if he was a real prophet then he should go to Jerusalem and get the attention that a real prophet deserves.  Later on we found out that he took their advice and went to the Holy City secretly. As they gathered around their distressed mother, that advice now came back to haunt them.

Their mother became increasing convinced that Jesus was of God.  The brothers thought this was just another belief of proud mama, but the evidence was mounting.  Then about a year ago, Mary took them aside and told them the story of the visit to her and dad by the Angel before Jesus was born.  We all looked at each other in disbelief as she related her account. Why hadn’t she told us this before, we asked?  She told us that we weren’t ready to believe until now.

It was shortly after that that James got the whole clan together, including spouses, and said, “We needed to get over the fact that Jesus was part of our flesh and blood.  We needed to get past the fact that he smelled when he sweated, that he belched after he ate and liked to tell jokes like the rest of us.  We needed to look at the important facts and the facts are becoming overwhelming clear that their stepbrother could only be from God!” Stepbrother? That was the first time we had heard anyone use that term.  It took some time for all of this to sink in but even with a few doubts we decided as a group we were going to believe that Jesus was at the least a special person sent by Good. The family was going to support his ministry any way they could.

So they traveled with him when they could get away from the business.  They also brought food and money, so he and his followers could concentrate on his teaching and healing ministry.

The clan’s annual trip to Jerusalem, for the Passover had started with high expectations. The crowds surrounding Jesus were getting larger.  The raising of Lazarus from the dead removed any doubt from a lot of people that Jesus was from God.  The triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days ago put a buzz in that air that spread throughout city. It was the most exciting series of events that any of them had ever been involved in. They all had to admit that they enjoyed the attention they got being the family of this hero.

And yet with all the excitement, Jesus had begun to refer to his own death with increasing regularity.  Everyone who heard him talk like this, tried to play down his morbid predictions. Nobody in they’re darkest thoughts could have visualized what was happening now on this hill.

Even as their brother was slowly dying, the brothers began discussing the pressing needs of the future.  The Romans had perfected this killing technique so it could last for several days.  Should they try to force their mother off this god-forsaken hill? They knew she wouldn’t go willingly or peacefully.  When the end came, where would they bury his body?  There was no way they could get his corpse back home in the short amount of time given for Jews to burry their dead.  In between their anguish they felt for their brother, the four of them knew that it was going to be up to them pick up the pieces for their mother.  Somehow life would go on.

Matt: 12, 13   Mark 6   Luke 4    John 2

  1. How hard do you think it was to make the leap from Jesus being a brother to being Devine?
  2. When do you think they truly believed?
  3. What kind of effect do you think they had on the early church?
Published in: on April 1, 2010 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 24

Caiaphas-The High Priest

“It looks like he’s finally getting what he deserves,” said Caiaphas to his father-in-law Annas, as he watched the soldiers tie Jesus’ arms to the cross.  “There’s no doubt about it, you should have had this done along time ago,” replied Annas with disgust in his voice.  Typical, thought Caiaphas, there was no pleasing of his wife’s dad.  Ever since he had been given the High Priest role for the year, Annas the high-and-mighty was constantly on him to do this or that and nothing seem more important to him than getting rid of this menace.  Not only was Annas putting on the pressure him to get rid of Jesus, but so were his five brothers-in-laws who all taken their turns at the top position of the Temple, and who all thought they could have done a better job.

“Well it’s done, so maybe we can have a little peace in the Temple and get back to business,” said Caiaphas to those of the Sanhedrin who had gather around him.  This last year had been very unsettling around Gods Holy Place. And it had all centered on this troublemaker by the name of Jesus.  For the last couple of years he would show up in the Temple courts and start teaching with such authority that it would leave the audience, including several of his own priests, spellbound.

During the last Feast of the Tabernacles he really got people riled up by saying things like, “I am not here on my own but come from the One who sent me,” a indication that he had been sent by God Himself.  What blasphemy! Jesus would never come right out and say it, but he was always hinting that he was sent from Heaven. And that’s what got the people all fired up.  And that’s also what made drove the Sanhedrin crazy, we all knew he was from the Galilean region and that he never had any rabbinic training.  This false Messiah should have never been allowed to do any teaching the Temple in the first place.  After this all settles down, one of the first things he was going to do was to set up some standards before we allowed just anyone to lecture in the Temple Mount.

Just recently, Jesus had got the Temple goers so worked up  that  the Sanhedrin council had sent the Temple Guard to arrest him, which they failed to do.  The wimps came back with their tails between their legs telling us that they couldn’t do it because they had never heard anyone teach like that.   Then they had the nerve to suggest that we ought to go hear him ourselves. We should have got rid of the whole bunch!

Not only was Jesus’ teaching causing a sensation, but also then we had the incident earlier in the week that had everybody in an uproar.  That fanatical prophet, teacher, or what ever he claims to be, went berserk in the Courtyard and destroyed the booths of the sacrifice vendors and moneychangers.

Now this was very serious matter.  The economic viability of the Temple depends on the profits from these businesses, and they provided a valuable service. The sacrifice vendors helped by selling animals to the long distance travelers who couldn’t bring there own animals on their long journeys.  And since we didn’t allow anyone to use anything but Jewish money for the transactions on Holy ground, you had to have the money changers.  Of course you couldn’t expect these needed businessmen not to mark up their wares so they could make a little profit.  Since their business only existed because of goodness of the High Priest who would complain if the Temple authorities made a little money on the dealings and the office of High Priest isn’t without its expenses!  There are a lot of operating cost with this office, guards to hire, a palace to keep up, expensive clothes, banquets to host and various other things that come with the position.  And of course the people expected us to live well!

The Temple guards were again useless in keeping this madman in check.  After losing a lot of their stock and having a crazy man swinging a whip around their heads, the vendors had refused to go back to work. And all this during the Passover, the biggest commercial week of the year.  Caiaphas  hadn’t receive a full report yet but it was obvious that a lot of money was going to be lost.

He would have led the guards himself to have Jesus arrested but had been caution by the chief priests that to do so would probably result in a riot.  He couldn’t afford that with the Roman authorities expecting him to keep his countrymen under control, and who knows how a riot would turn out.  Fortunately one of Jesus’ own men had come to him with a proposal to have him detained in a more peaceful setting.

At the trial a few hours ago, he had come face to face with this now dying Jesus for the first time.  This so called prophet, showed his insolence by refusing to answer the questions put to him by the learned men of the Sanhedrin.  Some of the accusations were obviously made up but one that Caiaphas was particularly interested in was that Jesus claimed he was going to destroy the Temple and then build it back in three days.  What audacity to think he could rebuild something that had taken so many years to construct. Jesus didn’t respond to the question, he just stood there starring at them.  Caiaphas finally had enough and asked the accused directly, “Are you the Christ or not?”  Jesus replied that he was and that he would be sitting on the right hand of God.

That piece of blasphemy set off our whole group into a frenzy, including himself, tearing at his clothes in anger.  His fellow officials turned into a mob and began to spit and hit the now blindfolded Jesus in the mouth, almost killing him on the spot. Caiaphas eventually got them to calm down, telling them that they had to do this the right way or it wasn’t going to sit right with the Romans or the common people.  So they marched the battered Jesus over to where Pilate was staying at the Praetorium.

There they made it plain to Pilate that they were going to accept nothing less then the death penalty.  It took him way to long, but they finally got Pilate to go along with the crucifixion sentence, and so here we are.

As he looked at the cross, he felt great satisfaction that he had orchestrated the end of this false prophet.  Maybe this would placate his father-in-law who constantly was on him for not being forceful enough.  As people were shouting different insults at Jesus, he heard one of his fellow Sanhedrin hollering up to him, “Hey Jesus, I guess it won’t be long to you find out there really isn’t any resurrection of the dead.”  Yes, Jesus,” thought the High Priest, it won’t be long now until everyone knows the real truth about you!

Matt: 26   Luke 2   John 11,18  Acts 4

Why have so many high profile religious leaders fallen to power and riches

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 23

Barabbas the Terrorist

Barabbas was running through the narrow streets of Jerusalem like his life depended on it and as far as he knew, it did. He was surprised and dismayed at his lack of endurance.  Not that he didn’t have a good excuse.  Not many would be able to run like trained competitor in “the games” if they had just spent the last few months in the dungeon of the Roman Praetorium. Somehow he had survived on an occasional piece of moldy bread and a dose of beatings from his captors.  As he gasped for air he worked up enough courage to glance over his shoulder at the expected pursuing mob. He was astonished to see that the street behind him was practically empty and no one seemed to be paying any notice to him.  Could this be? Could he really be free? Trying not to attract any attention, Barabbas moved cautiously through the streets in his torn, smelly rags.  He fully expected for his name to be called out and for the flight to begin again.

As he headed towards his widowed moms hovel on the edge of the city, he no expectations of a warm welcome.  In fact he would have to make sure none of his neighbors caught him sneaking in or they may finish what the Romans didn’t. As he made his way along, his mind wandered on how he had come to be in this position.

It all started with his upbringing.  As a boy he had been told the stories of the great Jewish hero, Judas Maccabeus.  Judas had begun a rebellion against the Seleucids who were left over from the time when Alexander the Greek had conquered his county.  Using hit and run techniques, Judas had successfully defeated several armies even killing a famous general.  He rallied the people by promising to restore the temple to worshiping Jehovah instead of the many Greek gods. He even executed the Jewish High Priest, a collaborator, who was leading the Greek worship in the Holy of Holies.  Each year everyone was reminded of this victory by the Celebration of Lights, the eight day feast of Hanukkah.  Barabbas and his boyhood friends rehashed these events as they played with their wooden swords.  But as he grew older the enemy changed from the long-gone Greeks to the new conquerors, the Romans.

The often heard comments from the adults against their occupiers kindled a rage that would eventually consume him. .  He was taught that the prophets fore told of a messiah who would be the great liberator and would set up Israel as leader of all nations.  This leader would come from the house of David, and it so happened that he was too. Certainly a new Judas was needed and who knows, maybe he was destined to be that Messiah.

It took time, but he slowly gathered a small group of like-minded young men and began to carry out small acts designed to strike terror into the hearts of the Romans.  Of course it was hard to intimidate the Romans and they struck back hard with brutal reprisals.  Barabbas took this as the cost of war, but some of his countrymen began to tire of brutal retaliation and turned against the band.  Barabbas even had to eliminate a few of his own countrymen who he judged to be the new collaborators. He made known that he thought the High Priest of the temple was one the worst of the traitors and should get the same treatment that Judas had handed out during his rebellion.  And so he became a wanted man of not only the Romans, but of the Jewish authorities.

Early one morning as he and his gang slept they were pounced on by a Roman detachment supplemented by the Jewish Temple guard. Everyone in his band was killed but Barabbas, who was  wounded.  The Captain of soldiers instructed his men not to finish him off so that Roman justice could make an example of him.

And so began his stay in the dark musty cell. His cellmates were a couple of inept highway men named Menna and his whining friend Diodorus.    He almost welcomed his impending crucifixion then to spend the long dark days with that pair. The worst part of the imprisonment was never knowing when his final moments would arrive.  Each time the cell door opened he cringed a bit, (but not enough for his cell mates to see) expecting to be forced outside with the tip of spear.  The other two would just whimper in the far corner.  Until today their only interruption had been when the guards got bored and decided to have some fun by abusing the prisoners, or when they threw in some garbage that they laughingly called “pig food,” one more dig at their Jewish ness.

This morning that dreaded moment came. The door was violently opened and the three of them were shoved outside by the guards, into the courtyard.  As their eyes tried to adjust to bright sunlight, they found themselves standing next to Pilate facing an angry horde chanting, “Crucify, crucify, crucify.”  Pilate said something to the crowd that he didn’t understand and the rabble immediately screamed  “Barabbas, Barabbas, give us Barabbas.” His heart sank at the realization that this rabble was here to kill him.  In his wildest dreams in his dark cell, he had visualized a similar scene except the mob was there to break him out in a total rebellion against the Roman oppressors.

Barabbas was shoved out to the front, with a line of soldiers with weapons drawn and Pilate sitting high on a throne behind him.  Of to side he could make out a poor soul who had obviously been severely beaten. The swarm in front of him was worked up to a frenzy. Dust was being thrown in the air, some of them were ripping their clothes and most were shouting angry words toward him and the Romans.  He was sure that they were going to surge forward, overwhelm the guards and tear his limbs off.

Then the throng quieted down as Pilate raised his arms motioning them to be quiet.  He addressed them saying, “One more time, who should I release to you, this well known murderer, or this Jesus of Nazareth, who has done nothing wrong?”  Barabbas was stunned as his mind tried to comprehend the question.  He was even more amazed at the crowds’ response. “Give us Barabbas, Give us Barabbas!  Crucify Jesus, Crucify Jesus!” He was now looking at Pilate who was obviously upset at the response. Pilate addressed the mass again, “Then let the blood of this innocent man be on your heads, I’m washing my hands of this whole matter.”  And with that he nodded to the guards who grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him into the angry crowd.  He braced himself for the expected blows but none came.  If fact they slightly parted as he made my way through them.  When he got to the outside edge of the throng he began running with everything he had.  It’s got to be a trick, was all that he could think.  They’re going to give me a little head start for the sport of it, and then run me down like a jackal in the desert.

As he approached his family’s compound he tried to put all of the last hour’s events in some kind of order. He was the one who supposed to have been killed.  And that bloody mass of flesh who name was evidently Jesus was going to take his place.
Well he didn’t know who this Jesus was but he sure must have been someone really bad to get that mob all worked up into such a frenzy. Finally he made it to his mother’s home, slid in the back door and saw an astonished look on her face.  After all the screaming, hugs and pinches of the face, things calmed down enough for him to answer her “how” questions. She stood in disbelief as he told her how he got his freedom.  When he mentioned that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was taking his place on the cross, her hand went to her mouth to stifle a gasp and then she let out a “Oh no, not Jesus!”  “Why, he asked, do you know him?”  “Oh yes,” she exclaimed. I’ve been to several of his teaching and healing meetings. I’ve never heard anyone like him, he teaches like it’s coming from God himself.  He such a wonderful man and the word around the city is that he even raised a man from Bethany from the dead last week.  Some even say that he might be the Messiah. And you say that Jesus is going die in your place?”

The way she said that made Barabbas uncomfortable.  From the tone of her voice it sounded like she would rather have her own son be killed than this mystical teacher, some homecoming. But then her mother instincts took over as she checked out his sores and bone body. She also began to scurry around coming up with a variety of food, including bread baked just this morning.  He didn’t know when he had tasted anything that was so good.

As he sat there at the small table, his mother filled him on the family news.  After his belly was full and he was caught up on the family, his mom asked him what was he going to do now?  The question startled him because it had been so long that he had even though about the future.  Recently his future was death by the way of the Roman cross.  It quickly dawned on him that one thing for sure was he wasn’t going to be able stay around here. In fact the quicker he got out of Jerusalem the better.  In fact it would be best if he left the country all together.  And so in a few minutes a plan took shape on how he would head west to a seaport, try to get work on a ship that would take him away from this land.

His mother was reluctant to let her “escaped from death” son leave but realized that it was the only option if Barabbas was going to survive.  She packed him all the food he could carry and gave him the few copper coins that she had managed to save.  She came up with some clothes that had been his fathers, including a long hooded robe that might keep him from being recognized.

After a hug from his mother, Barabbas went on his way. With his hood up and eyes never looking at anyone directly, he kept to the narrow side streets as he made his way out of the city.  When he passed through a gate in the wall he couldn’t believe his eyes.  There directly on a hill in front of him, was a crowd gathered around three crosses. His first impulse was to turn and go the opposite direction but something drove him on. As he climbed the hill his inner voice kept telling him that this was crazy to put himself at risk.  Soon he found himself at the edge of the onlookers.  Making sure that his hood covered everything but the front of his face he gazed up at the crosses. He saw that his ex-cellmates were in excruciating agony, he actually found himself feeling sorry for the duo.  Then he looked up at Jesus.  “By all rights that’s where I should be,” he thought. This man, who he had never met, had taken his place.  From the description given by his mother, this man hadn’t done anything to deserve this.  None of this made any sense.  He couldn’t take his eyes off this man called Jesus.  And then Jesus lifted his head and looked in his direction. Their eyes met, and in that split second that seemed to last for an eternity, Barabbas mind seem to hear, “I’m choosing to die for you, the Romans have little to do with it.  Your many sins can be forgiven, find me.”  And then Jesus dropped his head back down, contorting in agony.

Barabbas just stood there with tears running down his face trying to get control of his emotions. “Who is this man,” he kept asking himself, “and why was he dieing for me on that awful cross.”

He finally gave himself a shake and headed down the hill.  His future depended on him getting out of this city and land.  What had happened on this grisly hill would soon be forgotten.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment